ZIMBABWE LAUNCHES ROTAVIRUS VACCINE
Aug 07 14:08
HARARE, The Zimbabwe government has launched the rotavirus vaccine which fights diarrhoeal diseases in children under the age of five years, a move aimed at reducing deaths among children.
Rotaviruses are the most common cause for severe diarrhoeal diseases and deaths among children below the age of five globally. At least 527,000 children die each year from vaccine-preventable rotavirus infections.
Two years ago, Zimbabwe, in conjunction with GAVI Alliance, undertook to introduce the pneumococcal, rotavirus and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines.
Speaking at the launch here Wednesday, Health and Child Care Curative Services Principal Director Dr Christopher Tapfumaneyi said Zimbabwe was committed to reducing child morbidity and mortality through continued strengthening of the Zimbabwe Expanded Programme on Immunization (ZEPI).
Tapfumaneyi said the rotavirus drug which was introduced in government institutions on May 1 this year was being administered for free. “This vaccination is considered as an effective strategy to prevent rotavirus disease and has been proven effective and efficient in all countries that introduced it,” he said.
He added that Zimbabwe had recorded an increase in vaccination coverage over the years from 28 per cent in 1982 to 95 per cent in 2013, hence had managed to keep outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases under control.
Measles cases have declined from tens of thousands in the early 80s to none as from 2011 to date, he said, adding no cases of wild polio virus had been detected in the country for more than a decade.
"Maternal and neonatal tetanus have been eliminated,” he added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Zimbabwe, David Okello, said his organisation was committed to supporting the government's efforts in reaching all children with vaccines. “We congratulate the country for recognising immunization programme as a pillar for the whole health sector and as a highly cost effective strategy for meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said.
The Rotavirus vaccine is administered to children orally twice at six and ten weeks.
Rotavirus causes vomiting and severe diarrhoea that can lead to dehydration and death and children aged six months to two years are particularly vulnerable to the infection.
The introduction of the vaccine follows recommendations by the WHO. Zimbabwe has joined 42 other countries that have introduced the vaccine in their national immunization programmes.